by Jodie E. Saueraker
It’s festival season! As the cold winds die down and the sun starts to peak through, it is a tell-tale sign that thousands will gather in various parts of the world to celebrate music of every genre. I appreciate a good festival. I appreciate the effort the goes behind the organizing of a mutli-day event and I appreciate the talent that gains exposure throughout the duration.
This past weekend I had the pleasure of going to Seaside Heights to be a part of the Jersey Shore Festival. Yes, Seaside Heights is home to MTV’s The Jersey Shore. It needs to be noted, however, that Snooki did not do it justice. I don’t say that in a bad way. I simply mean there is a beauty within this ocean town. It has the ability to wipe away your stressors and let you enjoy the majestic ocean in a unique way.
The Jersey Shore Festival is run by Indian, Rhyan Sharkey and, from what I can tell, a diverse group of volunteers. We were told about it by our friend John Pfeiffer. It features sponsors such as Coors, Coastal Modular Group, Edelbrook, Sailor Jerry, a bunch of media outlets and many more. The short version is this- it was awesome, I mean truly awesome. I had one of the best weekends that I have had in a while. It’s the perfect formula – the beach, great music, adult beverages, good people and warm weather. How can that be bad?
We arrived on Friday night to torrential downpours. The rain was a bit unusual and eerie in light of the storm tragedies that recently hit the Jersey Shore. Our first stop was the Aztec, a hotel that is frozen in time from decades ago when the Jersey Shore was the premier destination for NYC families. It was perfect. I could have sat in my room and sipped martini’s with Don Draper all day and never missed a beat.
During the previous week I had organized my plan of attack to see the bands I wanted to see. That plan immediately dissolved on Friday night because of the rain. It would be impossible for me to mention every band we saw as there were nearly 160 acts but I will mention some that stood out. You can see the full list here: http://www.jerseyshorefestival.com/bands
Dr. Lou was the first live artist I had the pleasure of hearing. His rendition of “Piano Man” put me in the mood for the rest of the night, well that and about two vodka and clubs. Next up was a trio that goes by the name of Montgomery Streets. I have to admit they were a pleasant surprise for the evening. Think Dave Matthews meets Maroon 5 meets Barenaked Ladies. After devouring our butterfly fries at Jimbo’s we made our way down the boardwalk to EJ’s Pub. Butterfly fries by the way are yummy. They cut a whole potato in one fell swoop and fry it. Everything on the boardwalk is fried including Milky Ways which I’m still kicking myself for not trying.
At EJ’s we got to witness former That Mag radio show guests Midnight Mob. You must see these guys live. They are reminiscent of Heart when they rocked the stage, yet different. This was truly one of my top performances of the entire weekend. Can I pick favorites? I’m not sure but I’m going to anyway. The night was capped off by Pasedena. Admittedly, I had never heard of them but everyone told me they were the band that I needed to see that night. Hailing from Maryland they blew me away. My partner, Ccelli, even agreed that they were someone we needed to continue watching. I realized their crowd was quite large and started chatting it up with some folks. People had driven from all over to see this band. One girl told me her friend sent her the Facebook invite and she immediately hopped in the car to be at the show. One of the things they are known for is their “stage selfie”. The lead singer Joey turns his back to the crowd and someone snaps a photo from the stage. You can see them on their Instagram and the fans find it very memorable.
The next day when we awoke all I could think about was breakfast. You know, those really good shore breakfasts that cost about $10. I found it at Bobber’s Family Restaurant. If you go, ask for Kim, she is the best. After the delicious treats we went straight to see all the vendors lined up on the boardwalk. From one end to the other, folks had their tents lined up selling their wares. I bought a t-shirt and spun the wheel for the NJ State lottery. Ccelli got heckled for not playing any boardwalk games to win me a prize. I enjoyed that. He absolutely should have thrown a dart in a balloon to win me a stuffed animal.
Saturday’s music started early for us. Let’s recap some hi-lights. There were two young kids by the Aztec pool in the afternoon who killed it on the guitar. My only regret is not getting their name (more on that later, though). Gina Cutillo sizzled on the stage and rocked a mini leather skirt like I have never seen. Seeing Gina was a recommendation from David Fiorenza, a respected local musician whose opinion I take in high regard. One of the more surprising acts for me was Black Tooth Grin, a punk band from New Jersey. I didn’t really know what to expect because the guitar player stripped down to his boxers on stage. I have to say though I enjoyed their performance and everyone’s head was bobbin’.
Our good friend Reji B. suggested I check out Midnight Mosaic. I only caught the end of their high energy set, but I will Google to hear more by them. Back inside the Aztec we caught Philadelphia’s own Love Cartel. These four Philly boys performed a more stripped down version of their tracks in comparison to their album, i.e. no horns. These guys rock. Check them out at the TLA on June 4th. #PhillyLove
Ropetree, I was told, was a local favorite so we headed over to Hook’s to check them out. The crowd knew every word which always tells me a band is doing something right. Back at the Aztec, we caught Lower the Veil. I noticed quite a few people with their t-shirts. One of the band’s fans found me and could not stop talking about the greatness I was about to witness. After their set, I agreed. The one song they did, “Soon”, is now on repeat in my iTunes. The night was getting later and we were growing weary. We decided that butterfly fries were in order, so back to Jimbo’s. As I walked in, I heard a base line that caught my attention. I looked to the stage and saw three musicians jamming out. I became completely mesmerized by the finger work they were doing on the neck of the guitar/bass. It was brought to my attention they were from Marlton, New Jersey and go by the name of Black Dirty. Apparently they play in Philly pretty often, but I hadn’t heard of them. My bad! So I bought their album today.
We ended off the night seeing End of an Era. I had to go to new heights to see them, literally. I couldn’t get close to the stage because of screaming fans that had been waiting to see them, so I watched from my balcony. I’m glad I did. I got to see the whole thing. This band had an amazing high energy, engaging performance, and was a band that knew how to work the crowd. I plan on catching up with them more at some point.
Again, there were nearly 200 bands and I’m sorry if I left you out. I did my best to see as many as I could and I can’t wait to return next year. Shout out to Indian and Rhyan!
One thing I would like to note. As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t know the name of the two young kids playing. They were young so I forgive them for this, but if you are a seasoned band please have your name on your drum kit, hang a banner, and say your name a few times throughout your set. Please. We want to know who you are. Also, as I was snapping photos of the bands, I realized I didn’t know their Instagram, Twitter or Facebook names to properly tag them. I had to go home and look them up in order to include them in my social media mentions. No fan will do that, I promise. Make it easy for your fans to find you. Encourage engagement! I will also note that there were only two bands to hand me flyers promoting their show, Paris Under Fire and Stranger Danger. Hats off to you both. At this point and at a festival of this magnitude, everyone should have done that.
The festival continued until Sunday night but Philly called so we had to leave early. All in all, I think the diverse talent was exceptional. This is the place to go to discover your next favorite band. I have a whole new appreciation for Seaside Heights and made some very fond memories. You can see more of my awesome cell phone photos on our facebook page!